Original language: Swedish
Original title: Italian shoes
Translation: Carmen Montes Cano
Year of publication: 2006
Perhaps it is because of Tusquets’ classic presentation, or because of the author’s nationality, namely, but I expected Italian shoes a blackness that (as I am not a big fan of the genre) I have been grateful not to find. It is always curious to see how certain authors move outside of their own genres (says someone who has only been able to endure while I write by Stephen King).
The story that Mankell tells us here has very little mystery, although in itself it is a novel of decadence where tragic sentiment emerges in the most unexpected corners. A surgeon who has prematurely left his profession lives on a small island where no one ventures to approach. Just a postman who appears sporadically. Accompanied by a dog and a cat, his existence is not exactly isolated but he feels very comfortable without interacting with people. One day an old girlfriend shows up at his house. Harriet, an older, terminally ill woman, appears not to settle scores but to close cycles that were left open. Her main reason was to explain to Fredrik, the surgeon, that a daughter was born from her youthful romance. He finds himself, overnight, as a late father and future widower. Her old girlfriend just wants her father to meet her, and suddenly Fredrik takes on the responsibilities and sets out to make up for lost time.
I admit that I liked Mankell in his style, elegance and content, although not enough to be curious about the novels for which he is usually famous. There is something strange and close to fascinating imagining those desolate landscapes, and it is curious that the novel ends up leading to a kind of psychological speculation about how the various options are faced when the decadent phase of life is reached. Fredrik is curiously recovered once the setback (another reckoning with the past) that precipitated the end of his career. Harriet behaves in a resigned manner and with a sense of planning that may surprise us.
Also from Henning Mankell at ULAD: Here